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Date / Time: May 20, 2023, 8 PM (Eastern); 5 PM AZ; 10AM Sunday Melbourne

introduction: Education is typically considered a human right but for 450 million young people living in conflict zones around the world, schooling is an early casualty of war. Online education provides opportunity and hope for some of the world’s most disadvantaged young people and this episode explores one such initiative that began during the pandemic and has grown over the past four years.

We feel a moral obligation to challenge inequities. We listen in order to develop understanding which informs our educational designs. We aim to promote hope and empowerment for individuals and, in turn, their communities.

Research tells us that geographic remoteness and gender are two substantial factors impacting educational opportunity – particularly in STEM fields. To address this inequality, and to provide professional experience to our pre-service teachers during the covid-related lockdowns, we teamed up with the Invergowrie Foundation to begin a ‘virtual’ school in Victoria, Australia in 2020.

During the first year, 12 of our pre-service teachers delivered senior high school revision classes to 300 school students.

In 2022, the Virtual School grew to involve more than 50 pre-service teachers who taught 56 free online STEM classes. Over 25,000 students from more than 200 high schools registered that year. 80% of those participants lived in regional or remote locations, and 87% of participants identified as female. As a result of attending these revision classes, 92% of students reported enhanced self-confidence.

The growth of the Monash Virtual School has attracted international attention from others who seek to provide opportunities for pre-service teachers and disadvantaged students. We now proudly support the work of David Falconer and Classrooms Without Walls who provide opportunities for young people in conflict zones, including Ukraine, Myanmar and Ukraine.

David Falconer’s volunteer work began in March 2022, soon after Russia invaded Ukraine. Witnessing the impact of conflict on students’ education, David immediately volunteered to support Smart Osvita NGO, a Ukrainian non-profit organization, to coordinate an international volunteer program to deliver online lessons in English. The support David received from volunteers like retired Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, the Smithsonian Institution, the Royal Tyrrell Museum, the Edmonton Public Library, Winspear Centre, and teachers and non-teachers from around the world inspired him to start CWW, an organization that currently offers free online schooling to students living in conflict zones.

By partnering with organizations such as Smart Osvita NGO, Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, Ocean Wise, Edmonton Public Library, OverDrive, Monash Virtual School, and hundreds of volunteer teachers, CWW is providing a lifeline to students who have been forced to abandon their education due to conflict. By offering free online schooling, CWW is breaking down barriers and providing access to education to those who need it the most. Most importantly, CWW is letting students in these countries know that the world has not forgotten them and that they can continue to dream, and set goals.

Currently, CWW offers three programs for volunteers to join, Teachers for Afghanistan, Teachers for Ukraine, and Teachers for Myanmar.

More below the video

In the news

About our guests 

Tara Mannix is the Manager of the Monash Virtual School in the Faculty of Education, Monash University. Before managing the Monash Virtual School, Tara was a school leader and an experienced classroom teacher. Tara’s role involves supporting and mentoring teaching staff, developing curriculum programs and fostering a culture of innovation and growth for all students and teachers involved in the program. In 2022 Tara received the Monash Education Faculty Award for Equity and Inclusion, and the Vice Chancellor’s Award for Professional Staff in recognition of her involvement in the Monash Virtual School.

Mike Phillips is the Associate Professor of Digital Transformation in the Faculty of Education, Monash University and the academic director of the Monash Virtual School. His work aims to enhance teachers’ capacities to understand the opportunities and limitations of educational technologies. By enhancing educators’ critical perspectives of such technologies, Mike’s teaching and research seek to enhance opportunities for all students to receive higher quality educational experiences. Prior to joining Monash University in 2013, Mike was a senior teacher for 15 years in secondary schools and in 2023, Mike won the Outstanding Global Educator of the Year award from the Society of Information Technology and Teacher Education. (Mike’s research profile)

David Falconer is a name that is synonymous with education, passion, and dedication. With 34 years of experience in the field of education, David is an accomplished educator, a graduate of the University of Alberta, and Gonzaga University. He has served as principal, Head of School and Director in several schools across different parts of the world, including British Columbia, China, Myanmar, Nunavut, and is currently a Principal of a private STEM school in Calgary, Alberta.

David’s love for education and his ongoing desire to make a positive impact on the world led him to establish CWW (Classrooms Without Walls). A volunteer based non-profit organization dedicated to providing free online education and support to students living in conflict zones. The organization currently has three programs, Teachers for Ukraine, Teachers for Myanmar, and Teachers for Afghanistan, which combined have served thousands of students.